Dying for a Belief??? 2015-63

                                             Dying for a Belief???   2015-63

How many of us would be willing to die for our beliefs in Jesus Christ? Not many, I would think. That would be a drastic act — to commit oneself for a belief, such as saying, “I believe in God; enough that I will die for this belief”.

Many, of the Apostles did so. It is not important how they died, but the fact they WERE willing to die for their faith/belief.  I really do NOT believe they would die for something they did not firmly believe in and something they knew was not absolutely true or more so, just a blatant lie.

Did the Apostles witness, first hand, the resurrection of Jesus Christ? If not, would they have been willing to die the gruesome deaths they encountered at the time? Beheading, being crucified, stabbed with a sword, whipped to death, stoned, scourged, and even being boiled in oil (did not work, BTW) are all terrible ways to die, which are the ways they did. Again, all are terrible ways to die, if you thought you were being decimated because of what you believe and KNEW it was not true.

The Apostles WERE willing to die these horrible deaths, they did refuse to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, and they stated to all that they witnessed the crucifixion and later the resurrection of the man named Jesus Christ, who was their Rabbi teacher.  That is faith!!!

Putting your life on the line for what you believe in. Wow, that is more than just using a word to say that one has faith in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. That is commitment!

I would hope that if I was about to be put to death for what I believe in, that I could have the courage to tell my executioner that I am a believer and why.  I cannot say I could, just saying I hope I could. I truly hope I am never but to the test, but if there was no way out, no hope for being pardoned, and a foregone conclusion, I do hope I have the guts to tell the one about to commit the act that I believe in God,  the one God of the Universe, before the end occurs.

Another thought!

On the other hand, how many of us are ready and willing to LIVE for Jesus Christ? I mean, REALLY live for Him! That is also a scary type thought, is it not?  To commit oneself to Christ and to carry His cross, and to proclaim the fact that – you not only believe in Him, but are ready to live the life of submission to Him!  Wow, that would be something!  I do NOT go to church ALL the time. I do NOT always stay at church when I attend; contribute to the community things that are available there ALL the time. I have NOT totally committed myself to Jesus Christ in my way of living, ALL the time.

To do so, is a commitment to living the life of being a follower of Jesus Christ as a disciple of Christ. That takes work. That takes again, commitment!  Not many of us are willing, able or inclined to do so. Once more, living for Christ is something that most of us are not ready to do; simple as that. We can say we do, or are trying, but are we?

We have our daily lives to live. Our soccer games to attend, our parties to go to, basketball or baseball games to go watch, etc.  We are not ready to spend our lives living for Jesus and that is the way it is today.  We are not prepared to spend the time that other members of groups take to be totally committed. We are not Monks, Friars, or other type reclusive members of religious societies that do have the time to do the things they do, in the name of Christ.  Somehow, I think God knows this.

We, (and I actually mean ME when I say that) could do more though. I could take the time to do many things that God would like me to do. I wrote about the Disciplines that can be done. Richard Foster wrote a book “Celebration of Discipline” that gives some guidelines to follow that would REALLY make God and Jesus Christ, happy if we applied ourselves and did them.  I have them in this blog site  and included them in a summery way that I posted in December.  I offer them to you, again to read, and in the reading, perhaps try some of them out.  These do not require you to stand on your head while you recite the Lord’s Prayer or other strange things, but instead are very simple things to start or continue to do. (See Posts 2014-15 through 2014-27)

God will love you regardless; He loves ALL his children of all races, creeds, religions, and beliefs.  He LOVES to hear from you (that is praying of course) and if you listen, you MAY hear from Him too. Try it out, and don’t give up, try again.

Thank you for your time!

Den Betts

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Being Saved – Lenten Thought 2015-43

Being Saved – Lenten Thoughts     2015-43

What is Being Saved? Depending on your faith; be it Jewish, Christian or Islam, there are different thoughts about this question. All are basically different in their theology. Different denominations in the Christian faith have variations of this theme also, which can be confusing to some. I will write about the Christian faith that I follow…..

What do we mean by “Saved”?  It, in its simplicity, could mean, being rescued! It also could suggest that those of the Christian faith would experience being saved from something and also being saved to something. Think about that thought…..

If a person is being saved, it might mean they are to turn away from a life that is without God. I feel I was saved a few years ago because then, I was not connected with God and did not have a relationship with Him. When I finally believed and knew that I DID have a relationship, things changed for me. How? It can be complicated to explain, but the easy answer is that I became one with God. I allowed Him to enter my life and in the process, I was saved. I left behind my ego, thoughts of power, feeling of importance, the thought of needing things, some comforts, and instead centered on something else; Him……

The somewhat easier answer is found in Scripture of the Bible. I do NOT take any of Scripture lightly, and will include it here. I have heard and read, (such as in John 3:16) that we will be saved if we believe in Jesus Christ.  Someone could say, “OK, I believe in Jesus, so I am saved; right?” Well, not exactly in my mind. You can SAY you believe in Jesus, but do you really? Do we also live the life that Jesus wants us to, or are we just going through the motions, like going to church, or not going to church, but still saying we believe in God and Jesus? Just a thought!!!

For over 65 years, I did not believe in the way Jesus wanted me to do. I went to church, I said the Lord’s Prayer, took communion, gave some money to the church, and other piety type things by rote. BUT, I did not have a relationship with God or Jesus Christ.  When that did happen, I mentally and honestly believed I was starting to walk with Jesus Christ instead of trying to just follow Him and say I believe in Him. There is a difference……

I posted on Feb 16 on my blog, an article about Disciplines. I wrote these in the past and posted them when I started my blog in December of 2014. I suggest to those that may have their own questions of believing or questions of being saved, you go to that blog (#2015-40) which refers to the Disciplines written and posted in Dec 2014.

At the blog they are listed under DISCIPLINES and the posts are numbered from 2014-15 through 2014-27. If a reader goes to the “About” page on the top Menu, and on the right sidebar, scrolls down to where the Disciplines are listed under Spirituality, you will find them.

These disciplines are a start. They are something of a way of beginning to have a relationship with God that might be different than what you have now. Just a suggestion……………….. If you truly believe that you are saved and don’t need any help, fine, I am glad for you.

Den Betts

Christian Disciplines for Lent 2015-40

Christian Disciplines for Lent   2015-40    (Neat that it is #40)                

Don’t want to give up chocolates for Lent? Or, pizza, cookies, TV, Internet, etc? These are a sampling of things people give up for Lent. These are something we choose to not have to perhaps show God that we are sacrificing something for the purpose of denying ourselves for the remembrance of Jesus Christ and what He did for us up to the time we celebrate Easter.

I question—- are these things, by giving them up for 40 days, bringing us closer to God? This has been debated by church people over and over again. Let me also ask this. How about doing something different? Instead of giving up a trivial thing, could we DO something for Lent that has meaning and DOES get us somewhat closer to God?

Our pastor suggested this and gave us some examples of what to do.   Everyone can try doing what was suggested. What is it????

Let us all endeavor to follow a Holy Lent whereby we honor sacrifice by taking on disciplines that will enrich our life with Christ and help us more fully appreciate the suffering and death of our Lord and the glory of resurrection on Easter morning. This is a different type of doing!  I challenge you to try this!!!

Last year in December, when I started this blog, I posted twelve disciplines that can be attempted. They are listed under DISCIPLINES and the posts are numbered from 2014-15 through 2014-27. If a reader goes to the “About” page on the top Menu, and on the right or bottom area,
scroll down to where the Disciplines are listed under Spirituality, you will find them.

I think that some of them are appropriate to try and I have summarized them under each title. Which ones to try????  Well, I will use the ones Pastor suggested. Meditation, Prayer, and Fasting are good ones to look at for now or pick another one if you wish.  I realize now that ANYONE can partake of these disciplines, as a way of life, regardless of any faith or belief, if they have a god to listen.  Just a thought…….

Quoting Pastor, “Resist the temptation to go all out or expect too much of yourself in the beginning. Disciplines are something that we grow into… they take time to work over our old habits and instill new ones!! Choose one, and do your best at it throughout Lent.  God calls us to center on Him, to listen for the voice of God calling out in the wilderness. God’s voice is there. Come journey with us as we seek to quiet our lives more attentively to the voice of God.”

Since I Meditate and Pray daily anyhow, I am going to try Fasting as a Discipline. It will be MY Lenten way of sacrifice, but it will be a MODIFIED fasting one, which I have done  before. That means I will adapt it to my age, my health and will not be a somewhat Normal Fasting that is written about by others. It WILL be between God and I and He will understand..   Another thought— “To be able to fast is another gift from God” This Fasting is a Spiritual fasting and not a lose weight type of fasting, BTW…….. Ask me, if you have questions, ok?

Den Betts

Spiritual Discipline Practices 2014-27

Spiritual Discipline Practices  2014-27

What exactly is Spiritual Discipline in relation to Christianity? Let’s start first with the dictionary explanation of the word discipline itself:

Discipline:  An activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill or behavior in accordance with a rule or regulation.  Do you think we are basically disciplined in our lives?

The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living with rules, and into the depths of inward thinking. We will try to define these in a moment. The Spiritual Disciplines invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm of our mind.  I thought that was so cool when I read it. So that brings us to the word Spiritual.

Define Spiritual!  What do   YOU   think the word Spiritual actually means?

The dictionary states that the word spiritual is pertaining to sacred things or matters such as those being religious or to the spirit as the seat of the moral or religious nature; or belonging to the church, or just plain pertaining to the soul or spirit or God.

From here we glean what a Spiritual Discipline may be or its purpose of liberating us from the stifling slavery of self-interest and fear in living our daily lives to instead being one with God forever. These are words from the author, Richard Foster in his book “Celebration of Disciplines”. He has emphasized that Christian meditation focuses not of the emptying of the mind or self, but rather on the filling up of the mind or self with God. I will mention his book a number of times in this “Disciplines” section of my blog, because it, his book, is so filled with details about the subject.

His book is available at many book stores or on Amazon and I highly recommend getting it. Before I used excerpts from his book, in 2013, I emailed his publisher to get permission to do so for a Sunday School lesson. They do NOT want anyone to be making money on anything that is taken out of any books, so I am good on that requirement.

I believe we can look at the Spiritual Disciplines as the melding of the mind, the soul and the body toward a common goal of finding God.

Let me list some of the Disciplines that we will be discussing, as put forth by Foster and others regarding Spirituality.  There are three types we will explore: Inward, Outward and Corporate Disciplines.  Let’s start with the: 

The Inward Disciplines –

MeditationPrayer  Fasting  – Study

Why would these disciplines be called the Inward Disciplines?

They offer avenues of personal examination and change to develop stronger relationships with God. They enable us to hear His voice and obey His Word

The Outward Disciplines –    

Simplicity –   Solitude/Silence –   Submission   – Service

Why are these classified as Outward Disciplines?

They are easily seen or perhaps noticed by others that help to prepare us to make the world a better place by discovering the social implications of life, and are not meant as pious exercises for the devout.

The Corporate Disciplines –     (Corporate = Pertaining to a united group, such as persons united in one body)

Confession Worship  – GuidanceCelebration

What is corporate & how does this apply to the Disciplines?

They are shared disciplines with others to bring us nearer to one another and to God.

For Protestants, spiritual disciplines are generally regarded to include any combination of what we just listed, but could also mean the following as disciplines:   chastity,  fellowship, frugality, giving such as tithing, hospitality, humility, intimacy,  reflection, self-control, servant hood,  singingsurrender, and teaching. Perhaps even more can be added, if we read of others from Scripture.

Wikipedia states: “A spiritual discipline is the regular or full-time performance of actions and activities undertaken for the purpose of cultivating spiritual development. A common metaphor used in the spiritual traditions of the world’s great religions is that of walking a path.  Therefore, a spiritual discipline moves a person along a path towards a goal. The goal is variously referred to as salvation, liberation or union (with God). A person who walks such a path is sometimes referred to as a wayfarer or a pilgrim or what I might call being a disciple of Christ on a journey to find and be with Him.” 

Do you believe that Disciplines are challenging or demanding to do in daily life?

Disciplines should not be hard to do, but may be difficult if we allow them to be.  We do not have to be advanced in matters of theology to practice them. Anyone, from long time Christians to recent converts can practice the Spiritual Disciplines.

The biggest requirement is to involve yourself in Disciplines and to have a basic longing for God.  In Psalms 42: 1-2, “As a heart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God.”  The key here is again, longing for God.

One word of caution, however, must be given at the outset: to know the actual mechanics of doing the Disciplines does not mean that we are actually practicing the Disciplines  Using Meditation as an example, we could finally learn about how to do Biblical Meditation, but in reality, when trying to do so, we may fail to practice the Meditation in the correct way or toward the real goal of doing the meditation, namely, taking time to be with God.  I was guilty of this myself. I had allowed myself to think that I MUST meditate every day, and try to do so at a certain hour. That is not the intent of meditating, as keeping within a strict, rule oriented way of doing so. My Pastor helped me understand this and guided me toward a better thought process of doing meditation.

The Spiritual Disciplines are an inward and spiritual reality, and the inner attitude of the heart is far more crucial than the actual mechanics, for coming into the reality of the spiritual life.   The life that is pleasing to God is not a series of religious duties. There is really one goal for the Disciplines, namely, to experience a life of relationship and intimacy with God. God who is “the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1: 17).

When we feel we have a need for God, come to understand we are sinners and that we are ready to receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are beginning to have a relationship with God. What do we have to do? Well, God should be included in our lives, or daily lives. It would help if we prayed to God and not just in church, if we go. We could meditate and pray, because God loves to hear from us. Hey, read the Bible and perhaps learn some things. There are great stories in it that have a message for us to learn. Many things can be done to have a relationship, but we have to try them. God is waiting!

MEDITATION Discipline 2014-26

Meditation  Discipline  2014-26

What is Meditation?

What is meditation, its meaning and goals? I have taken the liberty of using data gleaned from a Sunday School lesson I did, which drew from Richard Foster’s “Spiritual Disciplines, which I asked for permission to use, but the publisher never responded to my request.  I highly recommend his book which has detailed and very useful information.

Hopefully, I can get the message across to you for the original question. There are two basic types of meditation, the Eastern and the one I will be discussing, the Biblical/Christian Spiritual Meditation.

Eastern Meditation

You might be aware of the Eastern form with a person sitting on a mat with legs crossed, showing the bottoms of their feet, eyes closed, hands together and saying over and over, OOOOOHHummmmmmmmmm, OOOHHummmmmmmmm, etc, or  whatever mantra or chant he or she is used to saying. Detachment is the goal of Eastern religions or meditational prayers. It is the escaping from their wheel of existence, trying to control their psychological or emotional well beings. That is ok if that is what your goal is; of emptying the mind of thoughts.

Biblical or Christian meditation, however, involves becoming detached from the controlling and hindering influences of the world and instead being attached to the living God through Christ. In this way, we might, through faith and transformed values, experience the sufficiency of the Savior and reach out to a hurting world in need of the living Christ or to ourselves. It is object oriented beginning with reflective reading of the Word , followed by reflection on what was read.

For instance, with Biblical Meditation we do NOT want to empty the mind and ponder infinity by repeating a chant over and over. Once more, it is reflective thinking on biblical trut, so that God is able to speak to us through Scripture and through the thoughts that come to mind as we reflect on the Word. With Biblical Meditation, we hope to personalize the Scripture so that truth can affect how we think, change our attitudes and how we live and take action in life.  No OOOHuuuuuummmm’in in this type of meditation.    

Meditation’s Purpose

What is the basic purpose of Spiritual Meditation?    The purpose of Biblical meditation is to “Hear God more clearly.”  We can do this, in one way, through the process of meditating and many cases combining it with Prayer. Meditation can be incorporated with many of the other Spiritual Disciplines in the Inward, Outward and Corporate areas, which I  discussed the blog Spiritual Disciplines.  Also, remember, Spiritual Meditating is not like the eastern culture of meditating as we just discussed.

In the midst of an exceedingly busy ministry Jesus made a habit of withdrawing to “a lonely place apart” (Matt. 14: 13). He did this not just to be away from people, but so he could be with God, His father. What did Jesus do time after time in those deserted hills? He sought out his heavenly Father; he listened to Him, he communed with Him. And he beckons us to do the same. Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God’s voice and obey his word.

I absolutely and firmly believe all of us CAN, yes CAN get to the point of hearing God speak to us and in doing so, being able to obey what He tells us. There are NO mantra chants to do, no hidden ways, mental exercises or flights into some kind of cosmic thinking to do. God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit wants our fellowship and desires to hear from us, through prayer, and then speak to us through meditation, as an example. One thing needed though for this to happen, is commitment on doing it.

To Hear from God???

There may be a fear factor involved in hearing from God.  The Israelites did not want this type of intimacy and in the time of Moses told him, “You speak to us and we will hear, but let not God speak to us, lest we die”, as written in Exodus 20:19. This is when God gave them the Ten Commandments.  There was thunder and lightning and trumpets blowing and the mountain was in smoke, so it was daunting to them.  God can whisper in your ear and does not have to shout to be heard.

The verse from Exodus shows why meditation is so threatening to us. It boldly calls us to enter into the living presence of God for ourselves. It tells us that God is speaking in the continuous present and wants to address us. Jesus and the New Testament writers clearly state that this is not just for the religious professionals— the priests— but for everyone. All who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord are the universal priesthood of God and, as such, can enter the Holy of Holies and converse with the living God.

I used to think “Why did God speak to those in the Old Testament, but doesn’t do so now, today? Did He get laryngitis or has He forsaken us as his children?”  If God is alive and active in the affairs of human beings, why can’t his voice be heard and obeyed today? That is what I used to think!!!!

God’s voice can be heard and is heard by all who will know him as present Teacher and Prophet. How do we receive the desire to hear his voice? “This desire is a gift of grace. Anyone who imagines he can simply begin meditating without praying for the desire and the grace to do so will soon give up. But the desire to meditate, and the grace to begin meditating, should be taken as an implicit promise of further graces.”  One of the amazing ways to hear God talk to you is very simple; read Scripture. By doing so, we form the biblical foundation for meditation.  Combine this with prayer and just see what you hear!!!!

I may continue this later with ideas on HOW TO meditate. For now, stop, read this and consider what I have said.  The how to, is not that hard, but I found that I HAVE TO DO certain things to make it work.

PRAYER- Discipline 2014-25

PRAYER- Discipline2014-25

When I discussed Meditation in another blog, the Discipline of Prayer is mentioned a number of times. Prayer is part of the Disciplines of communing with our Lord God.  The thing is, Prayer is a learning process. When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11-1) they were asking Him to help them talk with God better. ? I have taken the liberty of using data gleaned from a Sunday School lesson I did, which drew from Richard Foster’s “Spiritual Disciplines, which I asked for permission to use, but the publisher never responded to my request.  I highly recommend his book which has detailed and very useful information.

Getting closer to God

Do we get “closer to God”, when we pray?  I believe so. Therefore, when we pray we are set free to question, experiment and sometimes fail in our endeavor to be closer to God in prayer, because we are learning, and always learning.  It has only been the last few years that I feel comfortable to pray aloud at a gathering, because I never did so before.  Our Lord wants to hear from us, even when we stumble in the process.

I taught an Adult Sunday School lesson on Prayer in 2010.  I went back and looked at the files and found that I spent a lot of time on that lesson.  I think I will draw from them and have a shorter but meaningful telling about Prayer as it relates to the Disciplines.

Why do we pray?

I personally do not believe that you NEED a reason to pray, but we do have reasons many times.  We pray for ourselves, for others, for events to happen or not happen, etc. Our prayers for ourselves could be for a countless number of reasons. I think of depression, loneliness, wanting something, thanking God for something, confessing our sins to God, etc.  I really think that having a better personal relationship with God, is the reason you should pray. For one thing, prayer is a form of serving God and obeying Him. Our Holy Bible is full of versus about prayer, and is an excellent source on the subject.

Does God always get back to us?

Sometimes He delays His answers according to His wisdom and for our benefit. In these situations, we are to be diligent and persistent in prayer (Matthew 7:7; Luke 18:1-8). Prayer should not be seen as our means of getting God to do our will on earth, but rather as a means of getting God’s will done on earth. God’s wisdom far exceeds our own

Gods Will For situations in which we do not know God’s will specifically, prayer is a means of discerning His will. If the Syrian woman with the demon-influenced daughter had not prayed to Christ, her daughter would not have been made whole (Mark 7:26-30). If the blind man outside Jericho had not called out to Christ, he would have remained blind (Luke 18:35-43). God has said that we often go without because we do not ask (James 4:2). In one sense, prayer is like sharing the gospel with people. We do not know who will respond to the message of the gospel until we share it. In the same way, we will never see the results of answered prayer unless we pray. It’s like saying, “You can’t win the lottery if you don’t play the lottery….”.

A Lack of Prayer Do we HAVE to pray? A lack of prayer might mean that this demonstrates a lack of faith and a lack of trust in God’s Word. We pray to demonstrate our faith in God, that He will do as He has promised in His Word and bless our lives abundantly more than we could ask or hope for (Ephesians 3:20). Prayer is our primary means of seeing God work in others’ lives. Because it is our means of “plugging into” God’s power, it is our means of defeating Satan and his army that we are powerless to overcome by ourselves. Therefore, may God find us often before His throne, for we have a high priest in heaven who can identify with all that we go through (Hebrews 4:15-16). We have His promise that the fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much (James 5:16-18). May God glorify His name in our lives as we believe in Him enough to come to Him often in prayer. It would be in the best interests to pray instead of not praying, what is there to lose?

Whom are we to pray to—– the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit?”  When we pray, who do we pray to?  All prayer should be directed to our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that we can pray to one or all three, because all three are one. To the Father we pray with the psalmist, in (Psalm 5:2), “Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray”   To the Lord Jesus, we pray as to the Father because they are equal. Prayer to one member of the Trinity is prayer to all. Stephen, as he was being martyred, prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59).

We are also to pray in the name of Christ. Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to always give “thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). This really is following y the ELCA guidelines in their belief in prayer.

Jesus assured His disciples that whatever they asked in His name—meaning in His will—would be granted (John 15:16; 16:23).

Similarly, we are told to pray to the Holy Spirit and in His power. The Spirit helps us to pray, even when we do not know how or what to ask for (Romans 8:26; Jude 20).

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps the best way to understand the role of the Trinity in prayer is that we pray to the Father, through (or in the name of) the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. All three are active participants in the believer’s prayer.

The above gives an idea about prayer, but there are other things we could talk about regarding prayer. I shall save the below for another discussion.  These are good questions that people ask about prayer and are, I think, important. Let me know what you think about these areas about prayer.

Who NOT to Pray To Perhaps??

Where do we pray?

How to Pray

When should we Pray

Unanswered Prayer

FASTING Discipline 2014-24

FASTING Discipline   2014-24

First off, how many of us have fasted?   The facts are, not too many people have ever fasted or do so, on a regular basis, which is somewhat normal for society today.  I do not mean DIETING fasts, but instead Spiritual Christian Fasts.  What do you think is the difference?  

What is fasting?

Not eating to lose weight could be called a fast, but that is a dieting fast, somewhat.  Or, many times, a person can fast during Lent, by restricting certain intakes of food stuff.  For medical reasons, some people may not be able to fast from food altogether. They may choose to abstain only from certain foods, like sugar or chocolate, or from something other than food. In truth, believers can fast from anything. The doing without something temporarily, such as television or soda, as a way of redirecting our focus from earthly things toward God, can also be considered a spiritual fast.

As a point of information only I fasted during Lent one year. We did so as a sacrificial Spiritual Lenten reason. We discussed when and how we would fast beforehand. Our decision was to fast on Monday’s and to do so by restricting our food intake. We drank water only except for the evening dinner time when we indulged ourselves with a cup of broth. During the day we involved ourselves in prayer and meditation. I will say, that by 4:00 PM, I was starting to feel the hunger pains in my stomach, but that went away eventually, especially after drinking fluid.

Spiritual Fasting in the Bible

There are many references in the Bible about Fasting. We will not go into detail about them, but the handout will show some of them from the New Testament. A cautionary statement though is to state that in the Scriptures there are absolute fasts that were done that involved no food OR water and for various time periods. That can be dangerous, especially if there are medications that need to be taken, or age or diseases that would preclude doing such a thing. The body can do without water for three days, but not much more than that time period.

Do we earn God’s favor by fasting?

Spiritual fasting is not a way to earn God’s favor by getting him to do something for us. Rather, the purpose is to produce a transformation in us—a clearer, more focused attention and dependence upon God.

Should we fast and proclaim this to anyone?

Fasting is never to be a public display of spirituality—it is between you and God alone. In fact, Jesus specifically instructed us in Matthew 6:16-18 to let our fasting be done privately and in humility, else we forfeit the benefits. I explain about my fasting to make a point of when I did so, and not a boasting of our actually doing so.

 Is Fasting a Commandment from God?  Sticking with the New Testament, Jesus did not say, “If you fast”, neither did He say, “You MUST fast”, but instead said, “When you fast” Matthew 6:16-18.The second crucial statement of Jesus about fasting comes in response to a question by the disciples of John the Baptist.

Perplexed over the fact that both they, John’s disciples, and the Pharisees fasted, but Jesus’ disciples did not, they asked, “Why”.  Jesus replied, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matt. 9: 15). That is perhaps the most important statement in the New Testament on whether or not Christians should fast today.

What is the Purpose of Fasting?           

Referencing Matthew 6:16-18 again whereas it states, “16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

To use good things to our own ends is always the sign of false religion. How easy it is to take something like fasting and try to use it to get God to do what we want. At times there is such stress upon the blessings and benefits of fasting that we would be tempted to believe that with a little fast we could have the world, including God, eating out of our hands.

Fasting must center on God, not on ourselves.  It MUST be God-initiated and God-ordained.  Physical benefits, success in prayer, the enduing with power, spiritual insights— these must never replace God as the center of our fasting. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven.

What can we learn from fasting?

More than any other Discipline fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately.

In Psalms 69:10, David said, “I humbled my soul with fasting”   Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear— if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.

Fasting reminds us that we are sustained “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”

(Matt. 4: 4). Food does not sustain us; God sustains us. In Christ, “All things hold together” (Col. 1: 17). Therefore, in experiences of fasting we are not so much abstaining from food as we are feasting on the word of God. Fasting is feasting!

Fasting helps us keep our balance in life.   How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them. Paul writes, “‘ All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything” (1 Cor. 6: 12). Our human cravings and desires are like rivers that tend to overflow their banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channels.

The practice of Fasting  This is where I would go into detail on how to fast, how often, what to eat or drink, etc.  The purpose of these Spiritual Disciplines is to introduce you to the Disciplines, but not necessarily go into each one in depth. You can do so in the future if you are interested.   If you want some ideas, get and read Robert Foster’s book,”Celebration of Discipline” that I drew many of the ideas from to write this blog.